Toxic Gas Leak on Delaware River Under Investigation

A hazardous gas leak along the Delaware River shut down both spans of the Delaware Memorial Bridge on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Virginia State Delegate Lashrecse Aird was among the many stuck in the bridge shutdown, and posted this photo on Twitter.

And the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) is still investigating how much damage may have been done to the environment.

Just after 4:30 p.m.on Sunday, November 25, chemical plant Croda Atlas Point in New Castle released an unknown amount of ethylene oxide into the air. Ethylene oxide is a flammable gas whose solutions can penetrate human skin, and is considered to be hazardous by the EPA. 

DNREC says the release was “due to a problem at the facility.”

In a statement, Croda Atlas Point representatives said: “We can confirm that the facility was shut down safely and securely and the release of ethylene oxide has been contained.”

The company says it was monitoring the gas levels in the facility, and no one inside was ever in danger. One employee did seek medical advice as a precaution.

Because of its flammable nature and proximity to the Interstate 295/ U.S. Route 40 bridge, the entire bridge was shut down, leaving some drivers stuck in traffic for six hours. The Delaware Memorial Bridge’s Twitter post said it was the longest continuous closure of both spans in at least 27 years. Both bridge spans reopened late Sunday night.

DNREC’s investigation into the incident continues. There was no immediate indication whether the gas release had an impact on the Delaware River itself.

-Meg Walburn Viviano